The Family of the Satyr
Jean Honore Fragonard ( French, 1732 - 1806 )
This etching by Jean-Honoré Fragonard belongs to a series of four prints called the Bacchanals or Satyrs’ Games. His series depicts satyrs and nymphs in the form of relief sculptures set against foliage, loosely inspired by sketches produced by the artist on his second trip to Italy in 1756–61. Though Neoclassicism is often set in opposition to the perceived frivolity of Rococo art, this print demonstrates the combination of classical subject matter and the aesthetics of the Rococo period.
Very few painters in 18th-century France were formally trained in printmaking. For the most part, they left the engraving of their work to professionals. Around 1763–64, Fragonard experimented with etching, ultimately producing a group of fewer than thirty prints, of which the Bacchanals are among the most admired. In these works, he treats the etching needle as a drawing instrument, using a broad range of mark making—from flecks, to squiggles, to areas of velvety tone made by cross-hatching.
Franny Brock, DMA label copy, 2016.